Democrats’ fears grow about GOP majority’s handling of Ukraine, Russia
As Russia’s blitz invasion of Ukraine shifts to become a slow-rolling war of attrition, Democrats on Capitol Hill say they’re increasingly concerned that a Republican majority might cut off the spigot of U.S. aid that’s proven crucial to Kyiv’s military defenses.
A number of conservative Republicans have vowed to stop funding Ukraine’s defensive efforts, citing a variety of reasons that range from domestic economic concerns, to deficit spending worries, to simple anti-interventionist sentiment. Those lawmakers are ready to press GOP leaders to halt the aid if Republicans flip the House in November’s midterm elections.
That would be a disaster, according to Democrats, who are warning that an end to U.S. aid would doom Ukrainian defenses, empower Russian President Vladimir Putin and more broadly encourage authoritarian regimes that are on the rise around the globe.
“Clearly the Republican Party has lost its moral bearings, and that comes with regards to domestic politics but to foreign policy as well,” said Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.). “These are kids and families that don’t deserve to die from Russian missiles.”
Moulton is hardly alone. A long list of Democrats are voicing similar concerns, citing the grip that former President Trump — who had praised Putin over the course of his presidency — retains over Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
“What would worry me with a Republican majority — which is why we need to make sure that it doesn’t happen — is because they are so deeply embedded and committed to carrying Donald Trump’s water that … most of them cower in fear from his criticism,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.). “So even if they, individually, might be willing to support continued aid to Ukraine and sending weapons, they are so fearful of losing power that it affects how they vote. And that’s really disturbing.”
Making the case for more aid this week has been Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, who met Wednesday morning at the White House with President Biden before moving afterwards to the Capitol, where she addressed lawmakers from both parties and both chambers. Her message was short and simple: Russian forces are killing civilians, and Kyiv’s military forces need more help to deflect Putin’s aggression.
“Usually the wives of presidents are exclusively engaged in peaceful affairs — education, human rights, equality, accessibility and maybe you expected from me to speak on those topics,” she said. “But how can I talk about then when an unprovoked, invasive terrorist war is being waged against my country?
“Russia is destroying our people,” she added.
The United States and its Western allies have already supplied tens of billions of dollars in assistance to Ukraine, largely in the form of military equipment and training, for Kyiv’s military forces, and humanitarian supplies to help the civilians who have been the frequent targets of Russian attacks. In May, Congress approved a $40 billion aid package, which the Biden administration has been allocating as need arises.
Yet a number of Republicans have been opposed to the massive Ukraine aid packages provided by Congress since the Russian invasion on February 24. In April, 10 House lawmakers voted against legislation making it easier for the Pentagon to provide military gear to Kyiv. And a month later, when the House voted 358 to 57 to approve the $40 billion in new aid, all the opposition came from Republicans.
The critics have cited different reasons for their objections, arguing that bills will draw the U.S. further into the conflict, and taking issue with the fact that Congress was sending more money to Ukraine as Americans struggled with rising prices.
As the midterms approach, and Republicans are widely expected to win control of the lower chamber, some of those same GOP lawmakers are pledging to fight any new Ukrainian aid in the next Congress.
“No more BILLIONS for Ukraine!” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) tweeted last week.
Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the former chair of the House Freedom Caucus, is sending a similar message. He has argued that the funds would be better spent securing the southern border rather than Ukraine’s border.
“We are spending money we do not have and spending money on a conflict that does not advance our national interests,” he wrote on Twitter last month.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is in line to become Speaker if Republicans win back the majority, is already pushing back, vowing to help Ukraine fend off Putin’s advances.
“We continue to monitor what’s going on there. We know what Russia has done is an atrocity, we do not want to see Putin win this atrocity going forward,” he said Wednesday following Zelenska’s speech.
“We would always evaluate, we were very supportive of the last [bill], a number [of lawmakers] have been over there,” he added. “We’ll continue to work in a bipartisan manner to make sure Russia is not successful.”
Even some Democrats said they’re optimistic that Congress would come together in a bipartisan way to provide more assistance — regardless of which party controls the gavel.
“There are people on both the left and the right who don’t support sending arms and material to Ukraine, but I think that they’re outliers on both sides,” said Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.).
“And if the Republicans took the House they would have their work cut out for them to make sure that the deeply misguided people in their caucus who think that Russia is our friend need to be pushed to the sidelines,” she added.